A proposal before this community would shift the management of the city of Toledo’s airports from the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority to an entity controlled by private interests. The concept is based on the theory that private entities often can manage large public assets more efficiently than their public owners can.
The economic importance of the city’s airports cannot be overstated. Toledo Express Airport directly supports more than 1,000 jobs, with an economic impact on the community of $200 million a year. Toledo Executive Airport provides additional economic impact through corporate and charter services. City government must take the management of these assets very seriously.
For far too long, the port authority has been the only agency engaged in the airports’ development. Since 2000, authority financial records show, airport operations have generated a surplus of more than $14 million. That money, along with state and federal grants, has been leveraged to create more than $78 million in investment in the airports, to support large-scale capital improvements and the development of an industrial park.
The focus of my administration will be to work with the port authority to support airport development. I have updated the city’s travel policy to require any municipal employee who travels by air on city business to investigate using Toledo Express first. If this policy proves not to be cost-feasible, we may consider other options.
I call on all other public agencies in the region to adopt this policy. I’m also encouraging all companies the city does business with to enact a similar policy. These assets demand additional support.
At the same time, the city has the obligation to continue to look at ways to manage its resources most effectively. The port authority and city government will work to support established and viable options in the pursuit of managing our vital airport assets.
If there is a better operating model, the city and port authority must find it. However, we must first use all of our collective resources and due diligence to support these assets.
Our concern must be developing good public policy. That must be our foremost thought before we take any action.
D. Michael Collins is mayor of Toledo.